Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Books and Beers on a Saturday night....

 Leah Rhyne , local Sci-Fi writer, put together a "book reading"last Saturday evening.

I knew one of the writers so I hopped in my car and joined the crowd.

A "reading" is where several authors come and share aloud a chapter or two of their book.

Leah has written a series called Undead America that includes Zombie Days, Campfire Nights;  No Angels,  and Jenna's War.

Yes, Leah writes about zombies.

And her newest book, Heartless, not surprising, is about a young girl who wakes up one day and discovers she is dead.

The good news...she appears not to smell. So far.

The sampling she read does have her using a needle and thread (a delicate pink color, not harsh white) to sew back a pesky flap of skin that dangles from her right cheek.

We further learn that she feels no pain as she does her deft darning.

Jason Zwiker, Charleston photographer, known for his essays, short stories, fiction and non, was the first reader of the night.

Jason flipped on the microphone around 7:30 to tease us with a chapter of his first - not yet finished - novel entitled "Jimmy the King and the Witch in Green," Part one.

I have sat several times at public readings by David Sedaris at Charleston Music Hall, and have been impressed when an author reads excerpts of his own work.

Listening to Jason is only the second time I have experienced this and I told him later that he writes well and emotes very effectively while reading.

Oh, did I mention the crowded "reading room" was at Holy City Brewing Company?

The brewery is situated behind rows of dark warehouses, and you turn off Dorchester Road, and bump your way over uneven pavement to reach the almost filled dirt parking lot. "Good crowd," I thought, as I left my car and headed toward the bright lights.

 As I said, Leah's "undead heroine"
had a major problem.

Fortunately, the former mortal had a very-much-alive friend and supporter.

A reading gives you only  a sample of what is to come and tonight was no exception.

Just as I was warming to Jason's characters and this young lady with a deadly future, it was over

The third author, Patrick Wensink,  took the microphone, and  picked up his latest book "Fake Fruit Factory."

Patrick explained he was from Louisville and was on a 15-city book-signing tour.

He was in Nashville, then Savannah the night before, Charleston was his 14th stop and he would finish up in Charlotte.

His previous book - featured on the New York Times list - was "Broken Piano For President."

When we chatted later, Patrick ticked of the cities on his tour that included cities in the Northwest, the middle of the country, New York City and this Southeast final leg.

He did add that this was his first reading in a crowded brewery on a Saturday night.

Wish I could say all of the people lining the bar and seated at tables were there to hear snippets from new books.

Listening for a snappy chapter or the opening pages of a brand new novel.

Patrick opened one of the copies displayed on the table and explained that the mayor of a small town in Ohio had to come up with a plan to attract tourists to raise a large sum of money to save his small town.

In fact, it was so small that cartographers didn't even bother to put it on a map.

Many were probably there just for the Holy City Pluff Mud Porter or Gruesome Twosome but the overhead speakers carried the author's voices around the room and probably gave some beer drinkers an added literary boost to a night on the town.

I know that Liz Chartrand and her husband, from West Ashley, queued
at the merchandise table when Patrick finished and bought a copy which he happily signed.

A line had formed as others stepped forward to ask questions of the three authors or to make a purchase.

Leah Rhyne, who had organized the event, also seemed pleased with the results.

I am sure that Jason Zwiker looks forward to two things:
1. Finish his novel and 2. Get it published so he could have a stack of them to take on a book signing to read aloud ....and to sell.

(Click on the photos and links for more details.)

Thanks for stopping by.

Yes, I had a Holy City Nitro Porter.


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Thursday, November 19, 2015

52nd Anniversary Coming Up In A Few Days...

 Next Sunday marks the 52nd anniversary of JFK being assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

Shot dead as he rode in a motorcade on his way to another Texas speaking engagement in "Big D."

Earlier he had addressed a crowd in Fort Worth, drumming up support for his re-election to a second term as President of the United States.

The leader of the world's strongest country, who had faced down the Russians, defusing the brink of war scenario during the Cuban Missile Crisis, wanted to finish many programs he had started..

This particular picture I took in 1960 in San Diego, when he was Senator Kennedy, campaigning against Richard Nixon, to become President.

I was a young college student, just out of the Marine Corps, who had packed up cameras and darkroom equipment and headed west from South Carolina to be the first in my family to attend college.

I had been offered a Photography Scholarship by the young University of San Diego, a Catholic school only 11 years old.

I set up my studio and darkroom downstairs in the College For Men building.

Naturally I carried my camera with me as a few fellow students and I went downtown to hear the Presidential hopeful speak.

I thought "Oh, what the hell," and worked my way to the front of the crowd and showed my student ID to a police officer standing on the raised platform.

"I'm the University's official photographer and would like to come up there to take some pictures."

He just nodded and gave me a hand up.

It was a simpler time and everyone was more trusting and helpful.

I positioned myself and waited for the moment Senator Kennedy would turn my way while making a point.

Three years later, while still attending classes at the University, I was a staff photographer for the daily metro San Diego Union - Tribune newspaper and wanted very much to be part of the paper's team that covered this 1963 return visit.

We had staff all over the place.

Reporters and photographers were at Lindbergh Field  airport, the several caravans, the area around where he was to speak at the San Diego State College, as well as with the President later in the day as he was offshore, observing military maneuvers.

I got a plum assignment about as close to the President as we could get with our press credentials. 

Practically onstage with him, I was able to get good photos from his left side as he gave the Commencement speech.

JFK also received an honorary degree from SDSU that day in June.

Just 5 months later, he made that fateful journey to Texas.

So, each year - about this time - I recall those two times I photographed the President.

Well, technically, once as Senator and then later, as President.

The first time all I needed was my student ID card and a helpful hand up by a burly police officer.

The paper submitted paperwork far in advance of the 1963 visit.

And several weeks went by as, I guess, we were screened by the Secret Service before credentials were issued.

I look back on those days in the sixties, in San Diego, working for the major newspaper with a camera in hand, taking pictures of people in high places and also those not so high.

In 1965 I covered the morning press conference by the Fab Four, the Beatles before their only concert in San Diego.

I had photographed LBJ as he campaigned to be elected to the high office of President.

I took pictures of the Dog Of The Week to help families adopt a special pet that needed a home.

Often I caught a humorous view of life that, I hope, caused a pause and a chuckle.

Even today, in retirement, I keep my camera handy and look for moments that need to be captured and presented.

I have found that one secret of a spectacular photo is to be in a very photogenic area.

Like Niagara Falls, or the Grand Canyon, monuments in Budapest or yellow trolleys in Lisbon, Portugal. Perhaps a sunset over the water at Folly Beach.

Travel photography gives me many, many opportunities to present something out of the ordinary.

Retirement is what you make of it.

I'm not one for being a couch potato, watching tv for hours nor easing down into a rocking chair.

I try to be around positive, upbeat people who enjoy life and make a point of giving enjoyment to others.

Which is probably why I try to attend many live music concerts.

Those talented performers know the value of doing a good job, playing their best, for an appreciative audience.

I try to get as close to the stage as possible and a lot of my music pictures show up on this blog.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing my memories.

(Click on the photos and links for more details.)

If you wish to make a comment, please do so.

Now, Charleston, get ready for a change in the weather.

Winter is again heading down South. Brrr.

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Sunday, November 01, 2015

As we bid a fond farewell...

 It was a fun four days in Lisbon but my vacation continues as I fly across Portugal and land at Sevilla to begin exploring Spain.

My impressions of Lisboa, as they spell/say it there, includes their long love affair with tiles.

Not just the red roof tiles - which are gorgeous - but old and new decorative tiles, that decorate many building walls and form huge murals inside the National Palace at nearby Sintra.

Walking tours take you around the historic district down by the harbor as you head up and down hilly streets.

Eventually you end up high on a hill, looking down from the Palicio de S. Jorge, the fortress-like structure to the east.

The Palicio link has a lot of information about this elevated observation location.

A scenic and interesting ride up in a cab, looking through a folder, and a great alternative to hiking.

Found another high spot 30 minutes by train in Sintra.

Looked up at the Moorish Castle fortress and then hopped a tram for a ride up there to walk around.

And, of course, to take photos looking down at the valley, large wind farms off in the distance and the overall view of the elaborate National Palace of Sintra.

Clambering on the Castle was a challenge - not nearly enough safety handrails -  to keep from tumbling down for a nasty fall. Or worse.

But we were cautious and watched our footing so no mishaps.

I felt sorry for parents with curious, excited, energetic and non-tiring children who were scampering up and down the narrow steps.

There were higher towers that probably did not improve the view of the valley very much, so didn't venture up steps that became even more narrow.

Running children added to the decision to not go higher but to find a spot for picture-taking.

Looking down at the National Palace gave a better feeling of how large and spread out it was.

The two white "inverted ice cream cones" on the right turned out to be chimneys for the over-sized kitchen.

The tour up and through the many rooms demonstrated the Portuguese love of decorative tiles.

Many large 20-foot high murals depicted hunting scenes.

And other activities were made entirely of the shiny-surfaced tiles.

Did I mention there is quite a history of making and using these tiles.

In fact, we were cautioned NOT to buy any in shops as souvenirs.

They either are fake or were stolen off buildings, which is a criminal offense. Yikes!

The guides said this is the oldest Portuguese palace, composed of different sections corresponding to distinct building campaigns.

It originates from the primitive palace built by the "Wallis," who were the Moorish governors of Sintra (10th century.)

Not that far away, actually overlooking the Palace and the Moorish Castle, was the "completely different" Palace of Pena.

Sort of a Disneyland-on-drugs place described as the exuberant creation of Ferninand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, consort of queen Maria II.

It would be an understatement to call it the most striking example of romantic architecture in the country, notable for its eclectic decorative style.

More like an outrageous ad for Dutch Boy Paint's many colors. Or even Sherwin Williams "covering the world" concept.

Wow!... does not come even close.

Just as bright as the red roof tiles in downtown Lisboa, these various primary colors mix and clash in a pleasant - though outlandish - manner.

Yes, my camera and I were very pleased.

The challenge was to turn a corner and NOT take another startling shot. LOL

When I was in the Marines, our "colors" were scarlet and gold (well, red & yellow). I accepted that.

But had never seen them on such a large scale as this before.

It was explained the colorful Palace was built by the brother of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who's Schloss Neuschwanstein is a pretty neat structure, sedate and much larger.

This brother wanted to outdo that one.

And, the Bavarian king  is called"Mad Ludwig?!"

Returning to downtown Lisbon, we heard the frequent roar of passing Tuk Tuk vehicles.

I add even more praise to outgoing Mayor Joe Riley for banning them in the Holy City.

Sounds like a combo leaf blower, lawn mower and a jet ski.

 These noisy public conveyances stopped conversation when they clattered by.

But, again, maybe the visitors were tired from walking so much.

And carried ear plugs.

I knew that Lisbon was the westernmost port city in Europe and was able to sample many seafood dishes.

Saw squid on the menu a lot but kept on reading. The local shrimp are huge and served with heads still on.

These I enjoyed. We Charlestonians know how to peel-and-eat.

Had a salmon filet a few times - once smoked rather than baked. Not really that bad, I found.

Finally I ordered a fish in a place way off the tourist track.
It was next to the harbor and I looked forward to it

When it was served, it looked back at me.

Well, you do pay for the whole fish.

It was delicious.

I have dealt with fried flounder at restaurants in Charleston more than once.

So I knew how to extract the moist meat with a minimum of bones.

You travel for new experiences.

That's what I kept telling myself.

(Click on the photos - and links - for more details.)

Thanks for coming along as I re-trace my stops on last month's vacation trip to Portugal and Spain.

A few more tiles shots. Much more to come. Burp.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Time out from vacation photos....

I took a needed break from processing vacation pictures and went out for some live music.

Vanessa and Alex  Harris at the Pour House were preparing a fancy sit-down Cuban dinner last night.

At a reasonable cost and it was a sold out affair., overflowing the LOT restaurant.

As an added bonus, the music that night was FREE and featured the exciting local group, The Garage Cuban Band.

Lively and danceable. Congas and bongos. And a whole lotta shakin' going on. The attached video was done at the PoHo on 10-10-2010. Worth a listen.

My notes say the bassist is Ron Wiltrout, but beer was involved so that might just be a wild guess.

He kept the music going and the crowd flowing.

I went to their website and see they've been active around town.

I missed hearing them play at the Royal American - a really cool venue - and at Proof on King Street.

I see they also performed at Victor's Social Club up the Alley between the Music Hall and Rue de Jean and even at the Old Jail.

Dancers ranged from shoulders and hips slightly moving to all out Cha-Cha-Cha back and forth on the dance floor.

(The Swing Dancers of Charleston would have had a ball as they practice long hours to get the steps and movements just right when the music starts.)

Another crowd-pleaser was the guy on bongos and that ribbed oblong thing* he scrapes to create an interesting sound.

I really should have taken the time to nail down names of performers I enjoyed but - hey - I'm retired and do this just for fun.

*Playing the g├╝iro usually requires both long and short sounds, made by scraping up and down in long or short strokes.[2]

OK, I looked up the name of the hollow  "fish" that is described as a percussion instrument.

The point is, they all played well and gave us some authentic Cuban sounds.

I caught a moment with Vanessa and congratulated her on a fine ethnic evening.

Now, I should get back to editing my vacation shots. Some streets in Lisbon reminded me of what I picture as streets of Havana...but with newer cars.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep alert for a chance to see and hear the GCB.

Buenas Noches.

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Monday, October 19, 2015

OLE!...No, no, I don't think so.

My recent vacation trip to Spain included four days in the capital, Madrid.

Monday October 12 was that country's National Day. Sort of like our 4th of July with parades and fireworks.
This particular Monday, there would be a card of bullfights downtown.

Back in the 1960s, I was a staff photographer for the San Diego Union-Tribune newspapers.
Covered a lot of assignments including trips down to the Caliente Race Track in Tijuana on weekends.

I would take photos of the winner of the main race and then  quickly drive to the border to get my film back in time for the paper's Sunday deadline.
Some Sundays I would be on the sidelines for a Charger's football game and other times, I'd be in Tijuana again but this time, at the Plaza del Toros for the bullfights.

I was in my twenties, recently married and took the bull fights as just another part of my job.

As a photographer with a long lens I would try to capture the motions and details of the confrontation.

It was colorful, combining elements of graceful dance, crowd-stirring music and a true test of man versus a raging enormous animal. 
One with long and sharp horns.

First the Picador would ride out on a horse that was heavily-padded ...and blindfolded. He carried a long spear with a blade attached that was outfitted with a plate to limit the depth of the wound he would inflict.

The rider's job was to jab the bull in the shoulder muscles to weaken them so its head would be lower when facing the matador.

Other fellows , the Bandelleros were on foot, and would circle and dance around to attract the bull's attention and, when he charged, they would bravely leap over and stick colorful barbs into that same targeted neck muscle area.
Crowd-pleasing and accompanied by martial music as the saga began.

There were three matadors and they faced two bulls each. As I recall, the ring was always crowded - probably tourists - and seats were priced on whether you sat in the sun (Sol) or in the shade (Sombra). 

The object was for the matador to work as close to the deadly horns as possible while taunting the angry bull with his cape and fleet-footed movements. 

He hid a sword with his cape and, when he decided he had worked the bull into a confused and agitated state, he would plunge with the sword, behind the lowered head and pierce the animal's heart.

Ideally it would be instant death, the bull would crumple and a team of  3 horses would be brought out to drag the carcass out of the arena.
All of these memories came flooding back as I sat to watch my first bullfight in nearly 50 years.

I flinched when the bull attacked the Picador on horseback and knocked him from his saddle. His horse, not able to see what had happened, struggled to regain its footing.

I cringed each time the barbs hit bone and bounced to the ground as the Bandelleros circled the confused animal that probably had spent the morning in a peaceful pasture, eyeing the nearby cows.

I watched the first three fights and each ended with protracted stabbing with the spear, several failed attempts to pierce the heart by the matador and - finally - the ungraceful death of an animal that had been raised solely for the purpose of being killed in front of tourists drinking cervezas or rum & cokes in the shaded areas of the arena.
I left and skipped the next three deaths. I wanted to wash my hands and be somewhere else.

I found some tapas and a glass of chilled red wine.

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Friday, October 16, 2015

A long, long day......

 The hotel in Sevilla, Spain mentioned there was a "terrace" attached to my room.

Yikes. There sure was!

Arrived at night so didn't appreciate the amenity until the next day.

Several beers were in the minibar in the room (priced at about Euro 2.50).

So there was plenty of space to relax and rest up after sightseeing and a day-trip down to Gibraltar.

This walking tour of the British colony had us saunter across the distinctive airport runway that bisects the city of 30,000.

This was the Southern tip of Europe and 12 miles across the Strait from North Africa.

Actually, this was the second time I walked across an active aircraft runway.

As a Marine stationed on Vieques, an island across from the eastern side Puerto Rico, I misunderstood the announcement about hopping on a bus to "get to the other side" of the very active US Navy airbase at Roosevelt Roads.

Yep, I looked both ways and walked across (no jets landed!) and was met on the other side by angry-looking MPs.

The Base Commander fumed and mentioned I was an idiot Marine, shouted for a bit and then I was free to continue my weekend at nearby San Juan.

Here at Gibraltar, we tourists were stopped by barriers as a small private jet prepared to roar down the runway and soar away.

In the midst of the European Union, we had to break out some British Pounds for fish & chips and a beer at a cozy pub.

This is my first posting about an 18-day trip to Portugal, Gibraltar and Spain. I tend to NOT tell in advance when I am going to be away for an extended stay.

It was completed early, early this morning after a 22-hour day of traveling.

I'm still jet-lagging.

Made my first cup of coffee at home after several weeks of ordering "Cafe Americano."

Travel is fun - but tiring - and it's good to be home.

Thanks for sharing some vacation photos.

I have a LOT more!

Oh, just discovered that Google can take two (or more) of your pictures, stitch them together and create a panoramic view.

The runway I mentioned in Gibraltar was a good example of not being able to get it all in one shot.

Took two and apparently kept them pretty level.

This is so much better than showing one or the other.

Thanks Google...but, I don't remember you asking if I wanted this or even giving you permission.

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Oh, Happy Day.....

Saw this online and it made me chuckle.

Actually, had not heard before that August 19th has been the designated day to salute this art form.

Apparently for quite a few years.

Giving credit to "someecards" because that's who posted it.

Years ago - yikes, 12 years - I put aside my 35mm film cameras and embraced digital photography.

And, never looked back.

Opted for a small fit-in-your-pocket point and shoot Canon camera and have been amazed how much they have been improved.

Actually wore out two of them. About 3 years of my heavy usage and they tend to get "tired" and I look for a newer model.

My Canon sx260HS brought back my joy of having a serious zoom lens again.

This beauty, a bit thicker than a pack of cigarettes or a deck of cards, offered me the "bonus" of a sharp 25mm to 500 mm zoom.

And no carrying around extra lenses or having to change out various individual "prime" ones.

It hung in a convenient small packet on my belt so I usually had it with me. But, as I said, it developed a problem ( a disquieting grinding noise) when the zoom would extend or retract, causing the camera to shut down.

I "limped" through a trip to New York City and several days in Quebec City, re-booting it after it shut down so I could get a few more shots before it stopped again. Grrr.

My Mom had saved one of my early film cameras, back when I was in Middle (Grammar) School, and people ask about the Kodak Duoflex II when they see it on my bookshelf.

Next to it I placed an unusual "camera" that really is a funky pencil sharpener. Hey, I am NOT known as a dour, serious guy.

But, back to my Canon pocket-size camera.

Repairs on the Canon sx260 would not have made much sense. I had paid only $189 and it was no longer even being made.

I went online and saw most of the current models lacked features I liked and was used to. So I checked out the Canon sx289.

Bingo! Canon had stopped making them in 2013 but I could get a brand new one for $209!

Now I see there are Nikon cameras with a 30x zoom, about the same size, for $300.

BUT, none of my collection of batteries and chargers would work.

I would have to start over if I switched to "the other brand" from my trusty Canon. Not going to do that right now.

Have marked my Google Calendar to make sure I observe  World Photography Day next August 19th.

(Click on the photos and links for more details.) Thanks for stopping by. Please visit often and send me some comments. Love to get them!

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Shhhh. it's a secret.....

First of all, because of the secrecy, these pictures probably will have nothing to do with the topic.

Not even these recent North Charleston photos.

Right after this, I headed for a Subway Sandwich Shop. Burp.

These just happen to be some I took at Riverfront park and have not used in a blog yet.

So, do not try to imagine that that Cooper River park is part of this.

Nor is the secret as huge as a Navy sub secret.

The government and the armed forces certainly hide things from the general public. And from each other.

This picture merely shows the propulsion end of a nuclear submarine.

You saw this "cavitation" demonstrated in the movie The Hunt For Red October, a film inspired by the Tom Clancy Jack Ryan, book 3 in the series.

Nope, science is not what the secret topic is about.

I'm finding this is frustrating, tip-toeing around and not being my usual straight forward person.

It was explained to me that violating this secret could have serious consequences.That would never be my intent.

Speaking of the military, this picture was taken at Old Navy in the Tanger Outlet shops.

Walking by, this image caught my eye but I never really had a chance to use the snap of these nude mannequins in a blog.

Well, up 'til now.

The secret has nothing to do with these buff dummies.

Nor with these outlet stores that apparently are set up in destinations about 75 miles apart.

No closer.  Not 50 and not 100 miles apart. Well, maybe between here and Savannah?

Tourists like to shop while on vacation and Tanger is pleased to provide that opportunity.

Yikes, this food reference shot is creeping closer to the secret I'm trying to write about without being specific.

*Note: this was taken inside a restaurant on Rivers Avenue and I reversed the shot so the sign could be read easily.

If it had been painted this way, passers-by would be very confused.


I had a similar problem when I was traveling overseas and unable to read Czech or Hungarian signs.

OK, I can't keep dancing around this.

The beer sign indicates another part of the secrecy dilemma I have.

Suffice to say I had two days of fun. A lot of waiting around but among interesting people.

And some great meals.

A hint: Adam Sandler was NOT involved this time.

There, that's it.

No more shielded comments.

(Click on the links and photos for more details.)

OK, share my happiness...

I got to be an Extra again. Shhhh!

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